More buyers than ever are taking advantage of the latest technology and online tools to search for a place to call home. As a result, real estate agents are leveraging new technologies to better assist their more tech-savvy clients. A 10-year history of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Annual Member Profile shows Realtors’ evolving use of technology, the Internet and social media and the essential role that technology plays in the real estate transaction.
There are noticeable differences between the 2003 and 2013 member surveys; one difference is that smartphones didn’t exist as a technology tool on the member survey a decade ago. Smartphones are so widely used today that it’s hard to imagine life without them; but in 2003, mobile devices were a fairly new technology that hadn’t yet gained widespread use among Realtor members. Ten years later, nearly nine in 10 Realtors reported that they use smartphones daily or nearly every day, and they rank among the most frequently used communication and technology tools used by Realtors after e-mail and desktop or laptop computers.
“Technology has transformed the way Realtors do business, but in real estate, high tech doesn’t come at the expense of high touch,” said NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty, in Villa Park, Calif. “Despite advances in cell phones, e-mail and Internet capabilities, real estate is still grounded in relationships. Technology allows Realtors to better serve their clients by providing them with information and resources quickly and efficiently.”
The use of GPS technology has also grown in the past decade, helping Realtors save their clients time as they navigate through neighborhoods; in 2013, nearly 40 percent reported they use GPS daily or nearly every day.
Blogs, social media and professional networking websites were nearly nonexistent in 2003; back then real estate business websites were a growing trend for real estate agents. Eighty-seven percent of real estate agents in 2003 reported that their firm had a Web site; only 46 percent of Realtors had a personal Web site for their real estate business. Fast-forward to 2013 and 64 percent of real estate agents have a personal business site, 12 percent have a blog and 56 percent use social media.
Despite all the advancements in technology, only 41 percent of recent buyers believed technology skills were very important in selecting a real estate agent, according to NAR’s 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. More than four out of five home buyers considered their agent’s honesty, integrity, knowledge of the purchase process, responsiveness, knowledge of the real estate market, and communication skills to be more important characteristics.